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7 mistakes to Avoid When Translating eCommerce Websites
Everything Translation

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Translating eCommerce Websites

Translating and localizing your eCommerce website is the key to engaging with international customers and turning browsers into shoppers. When potential customers feel comfortable with a website and can navigate their way around it with ease, they’re more likely to stay and shop. With the global eCommerce market topping  $4.98 trillion in 2021, this is definitely an area where you need to stay competitive. While using free online translation might be tempting when budgets are tight, they come with serious drawbacks. Even when your business has budgeted for professional translators there are still mistakes to avoid. Here are the top seven most common ones.

Top website translation mistakes

1. Using automated translation tools

One-size-fits-all translation tools (such as Google Translate) don’t cater to cultural and language differences. Using an AI translation tool without the input of a professional native-speaking translator leads to errors. These may include odd product names, slogans that cause offense in certain countries, the inappropriate use of idioms, and incorrect messages, buttons, and instructions on your website. If your customer is unable to understand the product information, is offended by the wording, or can’t successfully make a payment, they won’t enjoy your website or complete a purchase. To avoid this mistake, always use a professional translation service such as BLEND. These services sometimes still use AI translation tools but they have been trained for specific languages and markets and the content produced is checked for quality by native translators in a press called NMTPE (neural machine translation with post-editing).

2. Not considering a market’s cultural context

Producing excellent translations is just the first step. Product names, descriptions, slogans, and images have to reflect the population diversity and cultural landscape of your target country. Brand names can be a minefield. A good example is Vick’s, a decongestant product safe for the whole family to use. When launched in Germany, it had to be renamed Wick as pronunciation differences turned a family brand name into a crude word! 

Be careful with images as well. Many contain text which is easy to overlook but appears foreign and off-putting to non-native language speakers. Images should also be culturally correct. Consider the time of year, the climate, how people dress, and even which side of the road cars are driving on. Make sure you reflect cultural context by using translators and editors that are native to the location. At BLEND we ensure your eCommerce site is culturally appropriate and relevant to your audience.

3. Not taking search engine optimization into account

Search engine optimization (SEO) is about achieving success through organic search results. 53% of traffic to websites is shown to have come through these searches. However, if a potential customer can’t find you because your website isn’t optimized for different languages and search engines, you’re losing out on sales. To create truly multilingual SEO, you need expert help with translation services that can pinpoint the right keywords, create a functional site map, and fully localize your content.

4. Using incorrect currency, dates, sizes, etc

Life would be simpler if currencies, measurements, and sizing units were the same around the world. Sadly, they’re not. For example, a UK dress size 10 is a 6 in the United States and a 38 in some of Europe. Also remember that a few countries still use Imperial units of measurements or a combination of Imperial and metric. At checkout, make sure the local currency and familiar payment methods are clearly displayed. If a customer has to spend time converting measurements or currencies, it’s guaranteed they’ll shop elsewhere. 

5. Not providing support in the customer’s language

Everyone encounters a technical hitch or has a product or payment query at some time when they’re shopping online. If FAQs are only in English or the customer service team only speaks English, your potential customer isn’t going to complete their purchase if they encounter trouble along the way. The solution is to employ multilingual support teams, provide local telephone numbers, or have culturally sensitive chatbots. Alternatively, take advantage of the Zendesk multilingual helpdesk offered by BLEND. This translates support tickets in real-time, ensuring your customers get the best experience, tailored to their language and cultural needs.

6. Not considering regional language differences

Some countries share a common language such as English in the UK and the US, Spanish in Spain and Mexico, Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil, or French in Canada and France. Other large countries such as China and India have a wealth of diverse languages and dialects within their borders. 

A key mistake is assuming that the English of Britain and the US is the same; just think of basic differences such as elevator vs. lift and sidewalk vs. pavement, and it’s easy to see how confusion can arise. It’s useful to offer visitors to your website a choice of regions and languages when they enter. Do this in written form rather than by flags. Just showing the Canadian flag, for example, doesn’t allow for a choice between Canadian English or Canadian French.

7. Not accounting for different scripts

When focusing on different languages such as Arabic, Chinese, or Greek, take their script structure and even the direction of text into account. For example, Arabic and Hebrew are written and read from right to left rather than the more usual left to right. Not all fonts support different language characters and, even when they do, design is important. Chinese words tend to be short and look better in wider fonts while long German words are more readable in shorter fonts. Make sure as well that your headings and buttons work with the translated language, or your website will look messy and unbalanced, which is off-putting to visitors.

Once you’ve avoided these mistakes and your eCommerce website is translated and localized, make sure that it’s reviewed by a native speaker before it goes live. This review should take in the entire shopping journey. Do this, and you’re more likely to reach and engage with new customers.

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